Creating a Home Office/Guest Room!

Well, hello there!

This past weekend I was in Pittsburgh for my little sister’s senior homecoming :(

I can't believe how big she is now!

I can’t believe how big she is now!

Anyways, my mom works from home 95% of the time and every time I come home I have to be quiet during the day and keep the TV turned down because she uses the dining room as her office. I couldn’t stand how inconvenient it was, not only for her, but for me as well. I knew that she was going out of town the first week of November and I was planning on sneaking into town and turning my sister’s old room into a home office/guest bedroom for her. I got to thinking about it and wasn’t sure if she’d actually utilize it or not, so I figured I would ask first – haha.

This is how the conversation went:

MeMom, do you think if I painted Nicole’s old room and turned it into a home office you’d use it?

Mom – *eyes open really wide**chin drops to chest* Are you kidding? Of course I would! Do you wanna do it this weekend?

MeWell I don’t know about this weekend. I might be a little busy getting Nicole ready and doing her make up and stuff.

MomOh, painting won’t take that long, you could probably get it all done this weekend!

MeOk, I’ve never painted a room before but I’m sure it’s no big deal. Let’s do it!

And the rest is history! My mom gave me a $500 budget. I went to Lowes and spent $70 and got some white paint and some supplies and had to paint over dark blue walls that had purple stars painted around the window and the closet! (I really wish I would have taken a before picture! The room was horrendous!) I thought painting would be fun but it turned into the worst day of my life (ok, I’m being dramatic, but holy shit!). So after two days, three coats of paint, and plenty of cursing, I finished the paint job! It was rewarding to basically do most of it myself, with little help from my sister Rachel and absolutely no help from my youngest sister Nicole. I knew after I painted the room, the fun part would begin!

So on Sunday morning I went to Ikea and got a desk, a desk chair, a bookcase along with some drawers for the bookcase, a lamp, and a cart with wheels! In all, I spent $280 at Ikea. When I got home my sisters and I put everything together which was actually kinda fun. Once we set everything up where we thought it should go we knew it was missing some stuff, so we made a trip to Walmart. At Walmart we got new curtains, new comforter, some throw pillows, a dry erase board, small cork board, and some decorations for the walls. At Walmart we spent about $108.

The next day I went to Target because I felt we were still missing some cool knick knacks and a desk lamp. Little did I know, I was about to have the greatest Target trip of my life!

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The cute blue stool thing had a clearance tag on it that said $24.98. The laser cut metal mirror had a clearance tag for $14.98. The small trash can was on sale for $12.78. And the Threshold white lamp had a clearance tag of $17 something. I get up to the register and the girl informs me that everything on clearance was even lower than the tag price. I THOUGHT MY FREAKING HEAD WAS GOING TO EXPLODE! I told her I might need to call my mom and have her pick me up because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to drive home – HAHA! My total for all of the things above was originally $50 and some change but with a mobile coupon for $5 off home purchases, I paid $45. Felt pretty good!

So, if you’ve been keeping track of the totals from all my purchases, you’d see I only came in $3 over the budget for this room! Pretty spectacular if you ask me!

The end result was pretty awesome for one weekend of hard work! So without further ado, here’s the new home office!

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My mom loved it and I couldn’t be happier because she deserves it and so much more! I heard her the next day talking to people on the phone and telling them how she was working in her new home office that her daughters put together for her and how it was the nicest thing anyone has done for her in a long time. It feels great to make someone’s day!

It’s almost Hump Day! Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Financial Tip Friday – Saving -vs- Investing

Savings-and-Investments

Deciding what to do with your savings can be very difficult. You try to split it up between emergency funds, rainy day funds, retirement funds, college funds, etc. Knowing what funds to put into savings and what need to be investing is simple!

Money that you need to spend in the next few years, lets say 1-5 years, belongs in savings. This includes a down payment for a house, emergency funds, vacation funds, basically anything that you may need to get your hands on quickly. Put it in a low risk savings account or money market account. Try to find a savings account that has a decent APY. As of right now, I use Capital One 360 for all of my savings and the APY is, ugh, just ok. Shop around before opening up any account!

Money that you don’t need for at least seven years is money that should be invested. We’re talking about things like retirement funds and college tuition funds for young children. I am no professional financial advisor and for these kinds of funds, I couldn’t tell you where to invest all your cash, but do it wisely and if you need to dish out some money to talk to someone that’s knowledgeable in investing these things, do it! Totally worth it!

I hope this helps! Have a great weekend!

Grandma’s 90th Birthday Party!

While growing up I spent the majority of my summer months with my grandma. I was a little too old for day care and both my parents worked full time so I was kinda happy to spend my summer nights in Chalfant, PA sleeping over my grandma’s house. She’d stay up late, she had a computer, she had “card night” and all the women from the neighborhood would come over and curse and smoke up the whole house, and she’d bake and cook delicious meals, so it was really no problem!

Just a week ago, on July 12th, we celebrated her 90th birthday and it was an honor to be able to help put the decorations and stuff together. We had an awesome photo booth in awful lighting, amazing catered food, and a slideshow.

The night before the party my incredible Aunt Maureen put together a lunch/dinner for all of the out-of-town guests that were arriving the day before the party.

I was able to see my grandma and my Aunt Patty

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I was also able to see my Aunt Edith

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And I was able to see my cousin Sandy and Pam that I haven’t seen for almost 6 years since I’ve lived in LA,  but I wasn’t able to get a picture of them on Friday night.

The invitations went out via SNAPFISH! and I really loved using this old black and white photo of my grandma. It looked really timeless and beautiful.

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We wanted to do a 1920′s themed photo booth with head pieces, pearl necklaces, cigarette holders, and the guys had gangster hats! It would have turned out GREAT if I hadn’t forgotten my light umbrellas! Here’s a few shots of my family and my gram’s friends from the photo booth:

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Some of the photo booth attendees haven’t seen me since I was “this big”… and you know what I mean!

I was in charge of the decorations. We had gotten some ideas from the catering company that had done some events before us at the same venue. They made balloon chandeliers, so we made balloon chandeliers and besides the fact that we lost a few balloons before the party even started, they still turned out really pretty.

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We also got 10 flower vases from my local thrift store in Brick, NJ, at Destiny’s Thrift Shop, for $10!

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We hot glued each vase with a layer of burlap and then a layer of lace over top of the burlap. We didn’t want the centerpieces to be too formal which is why we used mini roses and mini tulips. We didn’t want giant roses and tulips to overtake the centerpieces.

We also put a tin can on each of the tables with a tag that said, “90 Reasons We Love Annette! Share a story or a memory that you have with her!” I wasn’t able to get a picture of the cans on each table at the party so I took a picture when I got home. We got about 20 or so responses and they each made me cry!

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During the party my Uncle Dick told a story about growing up with my grandma:

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My Aunt Maureen was able to read a few of the cards that people had left in the “90 Reasons We Love Annette” tins. So hilarious!

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My grandma blew the candles out!

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The cake mimicked the invitations which was pretty cool. My grandma had a really awesome time which was a lot of fun to see!

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My grandma and her two younger sisters.

My grandma and her two younger sisters.

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The party was definitely a success. The food was delicious and if you’re looking for an amazing catering company in the Pittsburgh area, please contact 2 Ladies & a Gentleman! The slideshow was a hit,  and my gram was able to walk around and socialize with the guests at each table.

I had such a great time at the party and I’m glad that everyone who came enjoyed themselves as well! Hope you guys liked the pictures!

Happy Thursday, everyone!

So much happenin’!

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve abandoned the blog for months and months but I do have a good excuse!

Sam and I went to Disney World for the first time in May and had a blast! I’ve also been trying to really work on my photography and have had some really awesome photo sessions these past couple months.

Photography

Now, vacation is over and summer is here and I have a new project that I’m super psyched about. I get to help decorate and plan my grandma’s 90th birthday party! It’s been pretty exciting and we’ve decided to do a 1920′s themed photo booth! I love my photo booths, as you know from my sister’s country themed graduation party. I’m also helping with centerpieces and what not so I’ll definitely be sharing those with you guys as I work on them.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Repurposing Household Items!

Do you know what I hate? When my Bath & Body Works candles are running out of wax. I’ve burned through them and the pretty jar is now basically empty and coming closer and closer to becoming garbage.

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Do you know what I love? The jars that the Bath & Body Works candles come in. I love the symmetry and plainness of the jars. They’re so cute! So, I’ve repurposed the jar from candle to cotton ball holder! This is how:

Boil some water

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Once the water is boiling, pour it directly into the jar. Sometimes people are afraid that this will shatter the jar but from personal experience, I can tell you that this jar is very sturdy and can definitely withstand boiling water. Once you pour in the boiling water you’ll notice that the water and the candle wax begin to separate.

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After about a minute or two take a butter knife and go around the edge of the wax and also around each of the wicks. The wax should be soft enough and this shouldn’t be difficult. If the wax is still tough, give the hot water a few additional minutes to soften the wax.

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Once you’ve traced the outline of the wax inside the jar you should be able to pry the wax from the bottom of the jar. If not in one big piece then in a couple of big pieces.

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Once the majority of the wax is out you can most likely pry the wicks and the wick stands out very easily. Remove them and allow the remaining wax to rise to the top of the jar.

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Once it’s done separating just pour it out. I usually like to let the wax on top harden and throw that away before pouring out the water below it. The sticker on the side of the jar is easy to pull off. As for the sticker on the bottom, it may need a little extra soaking in order to come off. Once all the stickers are off run a soapy sponge over it and let it dry and then it’s ready! You’ve got a really cute jar to do with as you please!

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Love these small projects that increase my bathroom storage, especially since I’ve got very minimal storage in my apartment.

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Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Financial Tip Friday! – Cut Some Financial Fat

This is the time of year when budgets are being made and people are making financial decisions that can change the outcome of their entire year!. It’s also a great time of year to cut some financial fat out of that budget!

trim the fat

When you’re sitting down with your spouse, partner, roommate, or even just with yourself and you’re discussing your budget, make sure you lay everything out on the table and see what you really need to be spending your money on this year.

Like, do you really need to be enrolled in Netflix, Hulu, & Redbox? Probably not. Is that Verizon Fios Quantum High Speed internet really making a huge difference? I can tell you from personal experience, NO!  Wasting money on things like disposable coffee cups when it’s way better for your wallet, and not to mention a little thing called the environment, if you just use a regular traveling mug! I didn’t mean to go all green on you.

You don’t need to cut down to the bare necessities but really analyze what it is that you’re actually utilizing!

Happy Friday!

Financial Tip Friday! – Don’t Stress

I’m coming to you live from Brooklyn, NY this morning with a very important tip!

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My financial tip for you on this cloudy, damp Friday, is to not stress yourself out over your finances. I’m a worrier by default. I think I inherited it from my mother. I worry about getting a flat tire. I worry about getting places late. But more than anything I always worry about my finances. Worrying isn’t going to help you pay your rent this month, but a solid plan and a strict budget will!

Also, I know I talk about saving money all the time and it’s one of the most important things that you can do, but you also need to live a little. For a few months I’ll be on a savings kick where all I wanna do is just save money because I look at my bank account and I see the benefits of all that savings. And then sometimes I just want to blow it on something fun, like a 2 night stay in Brooklyn and a couple tickets to the Nets vs Heat game which I will be attending tonight! (OMG! Lebron James and I will be in the same room!)

Moral of the story, or of this blog or whatever… Don’t spend all of your time worrying. Spend a little time worrying, a little time having fun, and a lot of time in control! And in the words of my grandfather, when he came to my mother in a dream (true story!), “Don’t worry so much … I worried my whole life and everything always worked out.”

Have a good weekend!

Retirement Calculator – Are you saving enough?

I’m fairly young to be thinking about retirement, even though I so often dream about those long, leisurely days, but I’d like to be prepared for when the day finally comes. I also want to have a plan well before then so I know how much money I should have saved. Thinking about retirement and the money I want to have saved for all of the things I’d like to do, quite honestly, terrifies me. It’s not on the top of my worry list right now but it’s only a matter of time before it nears.

Today I was surfing the CNN Money page and they have a retirement calculator.

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You enter your age, what age you’ll be when you retire, how much money you have saved for retirement already, and your annual salary and the percentage at which you’re saving and voilà! It lets you know how much you’ll probably need and how much you’ll have if you stick to the same annual salary and percentage of contribution.

No matter how old you are, it’s a great tool to utilize once in a while to keep you on track. It probably sucks to be old but you don’t want to be old AND poor!

Check out the money calculator here.

Financial Tip Friday! – 52 Week Money Challenge REVISED!

Welcome to Financial Tip Friday! The first of many, I hope.

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52 Week Money Challenge

52 Week Money Challenge

I’m sure you’ve seen this image before. The 52 Week Money Challenge was posted everywhere at the beginning of last year and has resurrected itself yet again in 2014. It’s an awesome and super easy way to save $1,378 in one year. Even though it’s very easy, I failed the challenge last year. I kept forgetting about it or the end of the week was an inconvenient time for me to go and get cash out so I’ve been looking for a better way to approach the challenge.

Last year, She Makes Cents came up with an incredible way to participate in the 52 Week Money Challenge by doing it BINGO STYLE! Check it out:

Bingo Style 52 Week Challenge

Bingo Style 52 Week Challenge

By using this method you can spare yourself the larger contributions later in the year around the holidays by making the larger deposits whenever you can throughout the year! At the end of the 52 weeks, you’ll still have the same total amount. You can check out Danielle’s post here and if you’d like her bingo style template you can email her at shemakescents@gmail.com.

I’ve also come up with a way to really intensify the challenge this year!

Level 1 – First Quarter Double

1st Quarter Double

This is a great way to save almost $100 more by just pushing yourself a little harder to save more money.

Level 2 – 26 Week Double

26 Week Double

By doubling the totals for half of the year you’re able to save $351 more dollars and the most you’ll have to save a week is $52.

Level 3 – Full Year Double

Full Year Double

Now this challenge is not for the faint of heart. This is some serious savings. Saving almost $3,000 in a year on top of what you’re already saving is something crazy! My husband and I both get paid bi-weekly but our pay days happen to fall on opposite Fridays, which is fabulous! So every Friday one of us is getting paid so this could definitely be a challenge that I may have to try and really push myself to do. It won’t be easy and if it becomes too much then I can always go back to the original challenge and still be ahead of the game.

So my challenge to all of my readers is to push yourself and try amping up your 52 week money challenge this year! Try one of these levels of savings and let me know how it goes but hurry because tomorrow is the end of week 1 so decide how much you’ll be saving!

Here is the link for you to download all of the PDF’s of level 1-3 of the 52 Week Double Money Challenge:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/iowa63dh2ultdzp/OFkNedXjLk